Chelsea’s outspoken chairman Ken Bates has called for smaller clubs and countries to be barred from entering major FIFA and UEFA competitions in order to reduce the number of fixtures being played by players at the leading clubs.

Speaking in his column in The Times, Bates claims that the current complaints among players about fatigue is caused not by the domestic calendar but by increasing international commitments.

“In the old days a club played 42 league matches,’ said Bates. ‘Today, in The Premiership, they play 38. Likewise, there used to be three international matches per season: the Home International Championship.

“Today, with the World Cup qualifiers, the European Championships, International friendlies, UEFA Cup, African Cup of Nations, Confederation Cup….I could go on, but you get my drift.

“The alleged overwork of players, consequent fatigue and poor performance is being created by the people who are supposed to be administering the game for the good of football – FIFA, UEFA and their counterparts around the world.

“It is clear that any perceived problems are caused by the international set-up, not domestic football.

“It is significant that UEFA’s solution to the problem – although allegedly for a different reason (falling TV audience) -was to cut the Champions League schedule by six matches per club.

“The problem is compounded by the realignment of member states. The Soviet Union used to be one league. Now, there are numerous republics, each entitled to participate. Likewise, Yugoslavia broke up into many states, each with equal rights. This is a situationspiralling out of control and any solution will be both radical and painful.”

“It is ridiculous that success in the European Championship can depend on how many goals you put past San Marino,’ Bates added. ‘As such tiddlers fail to qualify, they just clog up the fixture list. In the UEFA Cup (in which Chelsea will play this season), the same situation applies.

“Both small nations and clubs get stuffed, nobody makes any money and the whole exercise is meaningless.

“Small nations and clubs should have a separate competition, the best of them shouldenter the main one at the next opportunity. This way the smaller nations – and clubs – have an opportunity to win a trophy and the international fixture list is more manageable.”